Northeast Asian Allies-North Korea: In anticipation of the forthcoming launch of a North Korean long-range rocket, South Korea, Japan and the United States have begun to deploy naval ships equipped with sophisticated and advanced antiballistic missile systems to the waters surrounding the Korean Peninsula and along the presumed flight path of the North Korean rocket.
Aegis-equipped destroyers and cruisers from the three allied navies are sailing to positions to destroy the North Korean rocket, should it threaten Japan or South Korea.
The South Korean navy will deploy two King Sejong-class destroyers to areas near Cheju Island off the southern tip of South Korea. Japan will deploy four destroyers to Okinawa, Tokyo Bay and the East Sea. The US is expected to deploy five or six Aegis-equipped "destroyers and cruisers" to the Sea of Japan, Okinawa and the Philippines.
The Aegis-system is the only weapon system with sophisticated enough technology to detect the exact moment of launch, monitor the trajectory of a rocket and intercept it when the rocket deviates from its orbit.
Comment: The precautions taken by the allies almost imply they welcome an opportunity to exercise their ship-born anti-ballistic missile systems. Readers may be sure that the North Korean rocket or any of its stages will be fired on if there is any possibility it will traverse Allied airspace.
Japan-North Korea: Japan has refused an invitation from North Korea to send a delegation to observe the North Korean space launch in mid-April. The Japanese cabinet on 3 April determined to extend Japanese sanctions against North Korea for one more year, prohibiting all trade with the North.
This marks the eighth time that the Japanese government has extended its economic sanctions against North Korea since July 2006 when the North launched its first ballistic missile, the Taepodong-1.
Comment: The Japanese government harbors no illusions about the North Koreans or their unwillingness to suspend, much less abandon, their nuclear programs.
China: The official website of the Maritime Safety Administration of the People's Republic of China published open ocean closure areas west of the Leizhou Peninsula in the South China Sea for gunnery training.
Comment: The coordinates plot a target box that is within Chinese territorial waters, but it is on the Hanoi-side of the Leizhou Peninsula and Hainan Island. This is not a significant threat issue, but it does reinforce the message to Vietnam about Chinese readiness to use force to defend Chinese claims in the South China Sea.
Afghanistan: On Wednesday, a suicide bomber targeting US soldiers killed at least six Afghan civilians in Maimana, the capital of Faryab Province in northern Afghanistan, the province's governor said. Three American military personnel and one of their translators were among the 20 wounded in the attack.
Comment: As a northern province, Faryab Province has only a few enclaves of Pashtuns, most residing in Maimana, the provincial capital, and in ethnically segregated neighborhoods. A bomb cell cannot operate in Maimana without the support of its Pashtun community. Thus, this bombing was preventable with competent intelligence and good security practices, which should have been easy in Maimana.
Egypt: In a bid to win the support of all Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood's presidential candidate Khairat el-Shater, has promised to give religious clerics power to review legislation to ensure it is in line with Islamic law, a group of ultraconservative Muslim clerics said Wednesday.
Comment: Today's statement is ambiguous because Sunni Islam has no clerisy, as such. The organizational mechanics of el-Shater's promise are not clear. What is clear is that an elected president of Egypt will move the government in the direction of Islamic fundamentalism.
Mali: A source in Timbuktu told foreign press that leaders of the Ansar Eddine group - an Islamic fundamentalist fighting force that supports the Tuaregs -- accompanied by a number of al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQLIM) militants have held a series of meetings with the elders of the city and the imams of mosques. They said that they came in order to improve people's lives and apply the Islamic law. The source also said that a number of militants from both groups took to the mosques and met residents where they briefed them about their agenda and the nature of their mission.
The source said that some of the top AQLIM commanders have been spotted in Timbuktu. They told the local population that they came to congratulate their brothers in Ansar Eddine and help them enforce Shari'a.
Comment: The coup by junior army officers in Bamako now has helped accelerate the creation of a new al Qaida base in Timbuktu. The political establishment has refused to cooperate with the so-called military junta. If the al Qaida terrorists manage to secure a base area in northern Mali, the Mali Army junta will find no refuge anywhere.
End of NightWatch
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